From Smart Cities to Engaged Citizens: Windows for Collaboration between Computer Science and Urban Planning
The virtual space created through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) overlays more and more closely the physical space of cities, contributing in the formation of a new hybrid space. Our ambitious goal is to provide concrete tools (analytical, conceptual, and practical) that will allow citizens to make informed design choices and shape the hybrid urban space according to their own needs, values and objectives (http://nethood.org).
For that, in this talk we provide a short parallel introduction to the fields of computer science and urban planning seen as the two highly multidisciplinary scientific domains that are responsible for the design of the virtual and the physical space respectively. We draw analogies between the vocabulary, methodologies and ways of reasoning, and argue for the need to converge these mostly separate until today streams of research, to closely collaborate over the design principles that will guide the evolution of hybrid cities.
In the second part of the talk, we give a concrete example on how such collaborations can be instantiated. Our case study explors the possibilities offered by wireless technology to citizens to deploy local wireless networks outside the public Internet, which can grant easy access for everyone, allow to choose the desired level of anonymity and privacy, and compete with global corporations such as Google and Facebook for the “right to the hybrid city”. We review existing initiatives around the world and identify important design details that matter both in the virtual and in the physical space. In context, we discuss our experiences from a recent interdisciplinary Dagstuhl seminar on Do It-Yourself Networking (http://www.dagstuhl.de/14042/) with participants from various fields of research and action, including networking, security, community informatics, Human-Computer-Interaction, arts and design, community wireless networks, and more.
We will conclude with an open discussion about the organization of such interdisciplinary gatherings (seminars, workshops, summer schools, hackathons, etc.) around the design of concrete solutions for specific cities, starting with the city Volos and an upcoming summer school, organized by the Departement of Informatics at University of Thessaly (http://www.internet-science.eu/summer-school-2014). The goal is to explore technologies that allow citizens to appropriate important aspects of their everyday life in the city (i.e., information, urban design, communication networks, and the economy) and engage students to work closely together with experts for sketching specific solutions for the city of Volos. This setup will hopefully open windows for interesting collaborations between urban planners and computer scientists during the summer school and in the future